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Dolphins' investment in Jesse Davis looks to be paying off

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis expresses his surprise at getting the starting right guard position.

Jesse Davis' head was swimming with information this time last year because he was playing every position but center on the Miami Dolphins' offensive line.

The former University of Idaho standout, who the Dolphins signed late in 2016 to develop on their practice squad, was focused on staying employed, and showing his coaches and teammates that he belonged on the third NFL team willing to give him a shot.

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Fast forward to this offseason and Davis is the first to admit he was surprised to be the starting right guard during the Dolphins' offseason program, and he's committed to proving he belongs there.

"Things are happening pretty quick," said Davis, who was given a tryout as a starter during training camp in 2017, but didn't get the job even though he performed admirably during the exhibition season.

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Despite losing the starting left guard spot to Anthony Steen, Davis kept pushing himself to improve. When injures to Ja'Wuan James and Jermon Bushrod depleted the right side of Miami's offensive line, Davis' number got called and he performed admirably in his 10 starts at three different positions last season.

He played so well that Miami's coaches intend on leaving the 6 foot 6, 321 pound former college tackle in the starting lineup.

"Now I'm in a position to where I'm starting versus, 'Am I a bubble guy [wondering if I'm] going to be released here if they sign a different guy?' " Davis said. "It's definitely a roller-coaster."

The last time a former practice squad player became a starter for the Dolphins was safety Yeremiah Bell, a sixth-round pick in 2003 who earned a starting spot in his fourth season, and eventually became a Pro Bowl caliber player in Miami and a 10-year veteran.

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If Davis blossoms into a respectable guard he could finally address one of the franchise's most troublesome positions this decade considering the last reliable guard duo the Dolphins had was Richie Incognito and John Jerry.

The Dolphins signed Josh Sitton to a two-year, $13.5 million deal this offseason hoping his presence at left guard would fortify the interior of the offensive line, creating a better pocket for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and assisting left tackle Laremy Tunsil's development.

It's on Davis and James, a 2014 first-round pick beginning his fifth season as Miami's starting right tackle, to anchor the right side of Miami's offensive line.

The development Davis showed last season was encouraging, and Miami's decision makers view more playing time as an investment in his, and the offensive line's future considering he's only 26.

"We've put a lot of time and effort into [the offensive line], going back to the end of the season," said Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins vice president of football operations. "We feel better about the depth and having Ted Larsen come back, and Jake Brendel and Jesse Davis. Eric Smith, we're excited about him. Zach Sterup played meaningful snaps last year in the Buffalo game [in Week 17]. Those guys have played a lot."

Plenty can happen between now and September, when the Dolphins play their season opener, so it's too early to say what will happen at right guard, especially if injuries enter the equation. But Davis is glad the Dolphins view him as a player worth a continued investment.

"Obviously I have a lot to grow and a lot to learn," said Davis, whose main competition is Larsen, an eight-year veteran who has started 73 NFL games, most of which came on the right side until last year, when Miami used him as the team's starting left guard for the second half of the season.

"I feel like I finally have a foot in the door somewhere, where I can kind of project myself into my career," Davis said.

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"You have to reinvent yourself every day. A coach told me that my rookie year and it's always stuck with me. You can't just come in here thinking that you've got something. You've got to come in here with an attitude and mindset that I've got to take that job every day."

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